Wednesday, 15 February 2012

seven inch tablets and keyboards

or how you can have your cake and eat it.

In a reply to a comment on my recent post on whether or not we are living in a post-pc world I mentioned these 7" android netbooks out of china that periodically turn up on ebay and dhgate.

Who, if anyone, buys them, I don't know, but they would appear to give you some basic functionality at a low price - web, skype, email and so on.

While looking for something else I noticed a new development. As well as the android netbooks there's a slew of 7" android tablets out of China. Obviously the sub $100 ones will have resistive screen etc but based on my zPad experience there's no reason to believe that they would be in any way less than the experience of using a brand name device.

The interesting thing is that these are increasingly being offered with an adapter that gives a couple of standard USB ports and a wired network port. ie you can plug in one of these roll up keyboards and a mouse and you've got the functionality of an android netbook.

Pack them away and you've got a tablet. And if you've got a resistive screen and a stylus you probably don't mind the smaller screen. (After all people successfully used palm pilots which had a much smaller screen to write emails and take notes).

Adding a keyboard to a tablet in itself isn't remarkable - Apple sells an external iPad keyboard and Lenovo among others sells a keyboard and charger combo unit for the ideapad, but I get the impression that uptake of these items is not that great. Certainly I have never seen anyone using one of these in anger.

However, I have this theory that if you speak and write Chinese, a tablet makes a lot of sense, and if you have an onscreen keyboard building up characters up of stroke elements is easy, and picking them with a stylus (or a finger) is a fairly natural seeming experience, and that this helps drive the production of low cost Android tablets in China.

Certainly when I started with my zPad I used the default pinyin keyboard application that had an option for stroke selection using predictive text input as well as assembling characters based on Roman text input.

I discovered this through the inevitable finger trouble one has (well I do anyway) with glass keyboards when I would occasionally hit the 'switch to Chinese predictive input' key instead of the shift key.
I'll admit that while I found the insight gained by using a Chinese keyboard valuable,  I later changed to a more western keyboard application.

Ignoring Steve Jobs's jibe that seven inch tablet makers should bundle sandpaper to help people file down their fingers so they could use them, the seven inch tablet + stylus probably makes a lot of sense for handling ideographic languages.

However, for those of us who use Latin script, the really interesting thing about this phenomenon is the price. The no name tablet plus foldable keyboard bundle usually come in at around $100 before shipping and taxes which has definite implications for tablet adoption and using them as simple note takers and educational devices ...

No comments: